A WYE Valley resident is taking part in a charity fundraising trek in the Arctic Circle - in spite of the fact that she “absolutely hates the cold”.

Tessa Legg, a mother of two and mental health and exercise coach from Devauden, will be taking part in the ‘Arctic Blast Expedition 2024’ in northern Sweden from March 14-22 in aid of the Velindre Cancer Centre, in tribute to Monmouth School pupil Tom Walker, who died in 2018 aged 13.

The annual challenge, set up by a man called Simon Ford, who lost his fiancée to cancer eight years ago, is an unsupported, week-long attempt to cover 100km across the frozen lakes and ancient glaciers of northern Sweden.

Participants will be hiking in snowshoes, pulling special sledges with backup equipment and sleeping in bunkhouses and mountain huts.

Rigorous training over past months has included brutal hikes in sub zero temperatures in the Brecon Beacons, courses on Arctic survival techniques, ice breaking drills and the construction of emergency shelters and snow holes.

Tessa has also been easing herself into an inflatable cold plunge pod in her garden at least five times a week to acclimatise herself to the punishing temperatures that await her.

This is her third fundraising challenge in memory of Tom Walker, son of her close friends and neighbours Debbie and Tim Walker (Tim is current chair of Devauden Village Hall).

Tom died from acute myeloid leukaemia six years ago.

Tessa has previously undertaken the Eden Project Marathon (https://www.edenproject.com/visit/whats-on/eden-marathon-and-half-marathon) and climbed Kilimanjaro in Tom’s name.

Tessa has chosen to pay all the costs of her Arctic Expedition herself so that all the money she raises will go the Velindre Cancer Centre.

She says her family is supportive of her extreme fundraising challenges, adding that she hopes they will “inspire my children to do what they want to do in life”.

Tom fell ill on Monday, May 28, and after just over two weeks of slow decline with a range of conditions he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia just over two weeks later.

His condition rapidly worsened while he was having an operation on Thursday, June 14, and he died after returning to intensive care that afternoon.

His leukaemia became very aggressive in the last 24 hours and overwhelmed first his kidneys and then his heart.

The Walker family wrote on their fundraising page in memory of their son on the day that would have been his 18th birthday in 2022: “In one way, it was no different to any other day: we miss him just as much every other day as we do today. In tribute to Tom on the day he would have come of age, we’re pleased to be able to announce that Tom’s Fund at Cancer Research Wales reached £200,000.

“A huge thank you to all those people who have helped raise the money and continue to do so.”

So inspiring was Tom’s story that pupils and friends of his school have helped to raise funds towards the charity.

Such as Adrian Whitehead who asked for donations to celebrate his 60th birthday to be made via the fundraising page – www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tim-and-tom-walker

Adrian was one of the crew members on the family attempt to set the world record for pedaloing Loch Ness in September 2019 and with the rest of his family (and Nick G) has been a stalwart in helping raise funds for Tom’s fund – including loads of help at ‘Swim for Tom’ and taking part in the second Brecon Beacons Night Hike.

If you want to donate to Tessa’s challenge, go to https://venturetovictory.justgiving-sites.com/fundraising/freeze-out-cancer

A Walk for Tom over the weekend of 27/28 March 2021 saw 300 people take part, with participants in Kenya, Portugal, India and all over the UK